Interview with Martyn Joseph

Ahead of his long awaited return to Belfast, we talk to Martyn Joseph about his current album, touring post-pandemic and returning to Belfast.

FT:  You are out on the road again touring your current album, ‘1960’.  Tell about the influences behind the album.

MJ:  I had time to reflect on things during lockdown. Normally I’m chasing a crazy schedule of shows but this was an opportunity to ponder the fact I had entered my 61st year on the planet and was about to become a Granddad! So I began to write songs of a much more personal nature and also about the fact that my Father was in the midst of Alzheimers and didn’t know who I was anymore. So there was a lot to process and take stock of and much of that made it’s way into the songs on ‘1960’.

FT:  You are playing Belfast later this month.  You’ve always made time for a Belfast on your tours and it seems like you’ve been coming here forever.  I can remember some legendary shows over the years hosted by The Real Music Club at The Errigle Inn.  What does coming to Belfast mean to you and does the city have a special place in your heart?

MJ:  Its true, I’ve been coming to play in Belfast since the early eighties! I love the passion and larger than life feel of playing in you’re great city. It’s a tough, vibrant, loving place that carries a history of hurt but still rises to show its true self. I’ve had some wonderful nights making music there.

FT:  Last time you played Belfast was in February 2019, just before the world was turned on it’s head by Covid 19.  How does it feel to be back out playing again and have you seen a difference out there now that were moving into a post-pandemic phase in our lives?

NJ:  Well I’ve been back on the road for around 12 months now so mostly it feels back to normal. I’ve just returned from playing in the USA and they are a little behind from us in terms of coming out of the pandemic as they took so long to enter it! But I think there is a genuine sense of gratitude that we are able to gather again and find that sense of community that is so important to everyone. I’d like to think the world is a kinder place as a result of this passage of time but I’m not sure we’ve learned that much to be honest. In some ways it’s as if nothing happened, but I think it has caused us all to take stock of things and not take our freedoms for granted. It also gave us a glimpse of the difficulties that developing countries have been enduring for a long time.

FT:  Last time you spoke to Folk and Tumble musicians and the music industry were still enduring cycles of Lockdowns and Covid related problems.   Now the industry has to cope with the situation post-Brexit.  How are you finding that experience?

MJ:  It’s a gigantic pain in the ass!! I toured Europe earlier this year and we had to get a Carnet for all my gear for the first time since the early eighties. It cost a fortune and was a bureaucratic nightmare. I apologised each night from the stage for my countries small minded decision to leave the Union. I love playing on the continent and will continue to go and play despite the obstacles but I feel even more for the young and future generations who are not going to be able to work and live in Europe as fluidly as they could before.

FT:  Outside of music you are also involved in charity work.  How that going and what is is your motivation behind that?

MJ:  It’s been amazing. My wife Justine and I founded the ‘Let Yourself Trust’ some eight years ago and we have raised and given away over half a million pounds to 16 beautiful grass root projects across the globe. I believe that people are primarily generous and compassionate, and Ive built up a trust with my audience over the years. So when i tell them of a need they trust me and are willing to give and help. It’s a beautiful thing and I’m humbled by that ‘trust’ and the help we’ve all been able to give to some amazing folk this past eight years.

FT:  Back to the tour.  What can your fans in Belfast expect to hear this trip?

MJ:  We will have a great night of community, gathered around songs of hope and reflection. Each night I get to play is a privilege and I don’t loose sight of that. So I’ll be playing with the hope that folks are going to leave the show feeling that they had a great time and they’re not alone.

FT:  As always Martyn, thanks for your time I hope to see you soon.

Martyn Joseph plays Fitzroy Presbyterian Church on 24th November.  Tickets available via